I Am a Sabbath-Keeper

by Amy Bowen


I am a Sabbath-keeper.  Yup.  Sure am.  I thought I was for most of my life, but I wasn’t.  I thought that refraining from work on the seventh day of the week was Sabbath-keeping.  I thought that by making the day special I was keeping that day as instructed in the Bible.  Boy, was I wrong.  I feel foolish even thinking about it.  I didn’t work on that day.  I refrained from secular things on that day.  I went to church on that day.  But I wasn’t keeping the day holy.


          When the Israelites were given instructions about the Sabbath it came with dire consequences for breaking it.  Death.

Exodus 31:12-18

12 And the LORD said to Moses, 13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. 14 You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. 16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.'" And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.


          Death is a pretty strong consequence for working on the Sabbath.  This wasn’t the going-to-a-job-to-get-paid kind of work either.  It was everyday-picking-up-manna work, too.  But why death?  Why was it such a big deal to God?

          The Old Testament ceremonies are full of shadows of the work of Christ. Leviticus 23 lists the feasts of the Lord.


Leviticus 23:1-3

1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, 'These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts. Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwelling places.'"


         The chapter continues talking about other feasts of the Lord that most Christians believe refer to Jesus' death and resurrection, the giving of the Spirit, as well as future events like the rapture, the second coming, and Christ’s kingdom on Earth.  So what did the Sabbath represent?   Why was it so important that the consequences for breaking it meant death?


          In Colossians, it says that the Sabbath was a shadow.


Colossians 2:16, 17

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.


The Sabbath in the old covenant was a shadow of Christ's work.  Hebrews 3 and 4 confirm this.


Hebrews 3:7-4:5

7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

"Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,

on the day of testing in the wilderness,

9 where your fathers put me to the test

and saw my works for forty years.

10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said,

'They always go astray in their heart;

and they have not known my ways.'

11 As I swore in my wrath,

'They shall not enter my rest.'"


12 Take care, brothers, lest there be any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold to our original confidence firm to the end.  15 As it is said,


"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion."


16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled?  Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses?  17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years?  Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?  19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.


1 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.  2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.  3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,


"As I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter my rest,'"


although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.  4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all his works."  5 And again in this passage he said, "They shall not enter my rest."


          We enter into His rest by faith, not by works.  Hebrews 4 continues:


6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, "Today," saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,


"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."


8 For if Joshusa had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.  9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.


          When is the day to enter His rest?  Today.  Not one day of the week, but today.  Entering His rest is all about trusting in Jesus for salvation every day.  The shadows of the Sabbath in the old covenant pointed to salvation.  There remains a Sabbath for all God's people.  Hebrews 4 instructs us that we who enter God's rest (through faith) must also rest from our works.  The Bible says that salvation is by grace through faith and not by works so that no one could boast.  When we come to Christ and rest in Him we cease working.  We stop striving to be good enough for God.  Jesus did it all for us.  Jesus didn't just get us to the saved status and leave us there to stay sin-free.  He saved us and wants us to rest in Him.  Salvation is a gift with no "be good" strings attached.


          So while I thought I was keeping the Sabbath, I was actually breaking it.  While I wouldn't have admitted that salvation was attached to the Sabbath, I did in a round-about way.  I thought that if I didn't keep the old covenant Sabbath, I was not showing that I loved God.  And if I didn't love God then my salvation could be questioned.


Hebrews 4 continues:

11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.  12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.


14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  16 Let us then draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.


          The devil will come and ram condemnation down our throats telling us that we aren't good enoughthat we must do x, y, and z before we can be right with God.  It is not true.  We must hold fast to our confession of faith.  Jesus our Savior has rescued us and we can draw near to the throne of grace with confidence.  Why?


1 Corinthians 1 says,

26 For consider your calling, brother: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."


          Jesus Christ is our wisdom.  Jesus Christ is our righteousness.  Jesus Christ is our sanctification.  Jesus Christ is our redemption.  It isn't about me and what I do, but about what He has done for me.  We can hold fast to our confession of faith even when we have really messed up in our lives.  Our righteousness isn't based on our works, but on His.  It is all about Him.  We can't save ourselves.  We can't keep ourselves saved.  Death was the punishment for those who broke the Sabbath in the old covenant.  Our righteousness and holiness will always fall short.  We cannot rely on ourselves, but on Him.  Salvation isn't God helping us, but God doing for us.


          So yes, I am a Sabbath-keeper.  I'm resting in His righteousness.  I'm resting in His holiness.  There is no boasting here.  There is not room for boasting with grace.  His righteousness and holiness are gifts.  I'm reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 11.


Matthew 11:28-30

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.


          Praise Him!



Amy Bowen, Decemeber 8, 2010